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Cablegate: Embassy Moscow

VZCZCXRO0038
PP RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHMO #3297/01 3181301
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 131301Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY MOSCOW
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0703
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHXD/MOSCOW POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RHMFISS/DEPT OF ENERGY WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 MOSCOW 003297

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR EUR/RUS, FOR EEB/ESC/IEC GALLOGLY AND WRIGHT
EUR/CARC, SCA (GALLAGHER, SUMAR)
DOE FOR FREDRIKSEN, HEGBORG, EKIMOFF

E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/13/2018
TAGS: EPET ENRG ECON PREL RS

------- SUMMARY -------

1.(C) TNK-BP Vice President for International Affairs Shawn McCormick told us November 7 that Russian shareholder German Khan has effectively taken control of the company. He confirmed that former Norilsk Nickel head Denis Morozov will be the company's new CEO, but stressed that Khan would be calling the shots. He said Khan is forcing out foreign employees. McCormick plans to leave the company in mid-December and expected less than 30 expats, none in senior management positions, will remain beyond January 2009. McCormick said GOR sources have told him that Khan's control over the company may be short-lived. According to these sources, the GOR plans to split TNK-BP into separate oil and gas companies that would then be sold, respectively, to Rosneft and Gazprom, with BP reduced to a minority shareholder in both companies. End Summary.

------------------------ KHAN AND AAR TAKING OVER ------------------------

2.(C) TNK-BP Vice President for International Affairs Shawn McCormick told us November 7 that AAR's months-long campaign to wrest operational control of the company from BP were close to fruition. The Russian shareholders, in the person of Executive Director and Alfa partner German Khan, have moved quickly and aggressively to exert maximum control over the company's operations following their October agreement with BP that "ended" the shareholder dispute.

3.(C) McCormick confirmed press rumors that former Norilsk Nickel head Denis Morozov has been chosen to replace CEO Robert Dudley, but stressed that the selection is "irrelevant." McCormick maintained that the job description of the new CEO could be summarized as "do what Khan says," as Khan has, in effect, rendered the CEO just a "titular position."

4.(C) According to McCormick, Russian shareholders Mikhail Fridman (Khan's Alfa partner) and Len Blavatnik (Amcit), are not interested in managing the company and are willing to leave it to Khan. According to McCormick, Viktor Vekselberg, the final AAR partner, is interested to some degree in the gas side of the business, but is also backing Khan's effort to gain operational control of the company.

-------------------- BP and the Barn Door --------------------

5.(C) McCormick noted that BP has assigned an experienced Russia-hand, David Peattie, as the new Group Vice President overseeing BP's interests in TNK-BP. Peattie intends to be in Moscow more often and to be more active in looking after BP's interest in the company than his predecessor. He also plans to make changes to the personnel in BP Russia and to involve it in TNK-BP's management, a departure from its past hands-off approach.

6.(C) However, McCormick said while these changes might have made a difference six months ago, they are too little too late to have an effect now. "BP had already given up" in September when it agreed to removing Dudley and renegotiating the original shareholder agreement (reftel). The outlook for the company was now poor and McCormick told us that most of the remaining foreign staff, including himself, COO Tim Summers, and other senior management is leaving the company. McCormick said his last day would be in mid-December. By January 1, there would be only 25 or so foreign employees left in the company (down from 130 plus another 150 BP secondees before the dispute), of whom only 4 would have any ties to BP and none would be a position of authority.

7.(C) McCormick said the drive to reduce the foreign presence in TNK-BP was driven partly by the desire for control and partly to cut costs. With oil prices collapsing while production costs and taxes remained high, TNK-BP was now losing $5 on every barrel of oil that it exported. The MOSCOW 00003297 002 OF 002 company had cut exports by 100,000 barrels but Khan had sought to eliminate whole sections of the company to reduce losses further. McCormick said Khan had now realized he had gone too far and that he could not run the company effectively without foreign expertise, but was having little or no luck in convincing employees to stay or in recruiting foreign replacements.

-------------------- GOVERNMENT TAKEOVER? --------------------

8.(C) McCormick said Khan's control of the company might prove short-lived. Well-placed contacts of his inside the Russian government had told him earlier in the week that the GOR's plan is to split TNK-BP into separate oil and gas companies in 2009. According to these contacts, the oil company would then be taken over by state-owned Rosneft and the gas company would be taken over by state-owned Gazprom. The contacts initially told him that BP would also be out, but in a subsequent meeting on November 10, told him that it might be allowed to stay on as a minority shareholder in one or both of the companies. McCormick added that TNK-BP was already on its way to becoming a "parastatal" as several of its new executives were joining the company from the ranks of the government. ------- COMMENT -------

9.(C) xxxxxxxxxxxx However, if McCormick's sources are right, Khan and his partners will in turn be hoisted on their own petard as Rosneft and Gazprom divide up the company, dictate settlement terms to AAR, and in the process perhaps inadvertently save BP's investment, albeit with no control over the companies or their assets. End comment. BEYRLE

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
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